Ifat Glassman

Being traumatized by a scary movie

26 posts in this topic

Right, I wasn't accurate there... what I meant is that in addition to perceiving something, there is some subconscious processing that takes place before you become aware of what you perceive in the form of a concept (with accompanying emotions).

The subconscious does contribute to your conscious experience. And subconscious responses are automatic and involuntary. You're right that you cannot prevent an emotional response. However as discussed earlier the response will change as your focus changes, so even without changing associations in your subconscious you do have some control over your emotions by simply thinking about something else. I have to do this every time I get in a plane, because I'm very uncomfortable flying. I just take out the laptop and watch a movie, which distracts me.

I agree.

Here is the main point though - would you say that the only form of learning is done by conscious categorizing? (assume someone in full focus when observing things).

I think not. I think that even if you try your best to categorize each and every scene in the movie as non-real, on some level your mind will still conceive the sights you saw as real (if they resemble reality enough).

I think that some amount of association takes place aside from conscious reasoning. For example, associating monsters you see in a movie with dark places (if that's what is shown in the movie).

I think that everything in the subconscious comes from conscious experience, but I agree that this is not limited to conceptual consciousness. You might see or smell something that reminds you of home, for example. But emotions are based on beliefs and chosen values, so even if you associate dark places with monsters, that does not in itself explain the fear. You're afraid because of something you believe could threaten your values (to include your life).

I think an image of a scary monster is "categorized" in several "folders" at the same time. It is categorized as something unreal (an image) but also the content is categorized as a threat to your life (by the very "nature" of the monster). If you are unable to fully "load" the full context to your peripheral focus (as happens when someone just shoves a scary picture in your face without prior warning) your first reaction will be according to the more primary categorization - "dangerous monster". (by the way, to be fair I was not the one who came up with this explanation, I got it from discussion with someone else).

But even given this explanation, I personally am convinced that even though consciously I know a scary image is unreal, I cannot block a feeling of fear as a response, even after I remind myself it is not real, the very content causes fear. My knowledge of its not being real cannot cancel the fear, just like I cannot cancel my emotional reaction to art, even though it is not real, just a painting.

Of course we all "suspend disbelief" to some extent in order enjoy a movie that incorporates fantastic elements. It isn't that we really believe in the characters on the screen, but we pretend in order to enjoy the story. This suspension of disbelief is something that we've automatized since childhood, and the horror genre exploits that. :lol:

I think the automatization is the other way around actually (automatizing actions to reduce the realism of horror movies). But I'm fine with leaving this at disagreement. I don't find the topic interesting enough to continue discussing the reasons for it for now. I did enjoy the discussion though.

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